Pioneers of Egypt Award, promoting social entrepreneurship, enters second round

After the 2011 start of the Egyptian revolution and the subsequent unrest, social entrepreneurship organizations exploded onto the Egyptian entrepreneurial scene. This growth led to the creation of the Pioneers of Egypt Award program, which offers financial grants to winning applicants selected based on their entrepreneurial concept and its feasibility.

The program, organized by the American Synergos Institute in collaboration with V-Worx (with the support of USAID), recently announced 26 winners of the Social Innovation grant. At the official end of the two-year program next March, they’ll have doubled the number of recipients, reaching a total of 50 winners.

The second round of participating entrepreneurs includes both for-profit and non-profit projects in various areas including culture, arts, online media, handicrafts, energy, development, crowdfunding, psychological and educational counseling, children’s games, and health. The program offers a $24,000 grant to the winning social entrepreneur as well as technical support and opportunities to participate in regional and international forums and networks.

The program’s particular focus lies in social entrepreneurship projects, whereas most entrepreneurship competitions and events usually focus on the potential profitability of the projects, without requiring any social output. The Pioneers of Egypt Award is continuing a surge in support for social entrepreneurship in Egypt begun by Ashoka’s fellowships to 47 social entrepreneurs in Egypt, and the Mercy Corps’ trainings and assistance in business model and business plan development (although the latter has not yet started investing in projects that have a social dimension).

I personally submitted my project, Bawabat Al Mandara (Mandara Online) for the second round of the competition. Mandara Online is an independent local media portal especially developed for Upper Egypt, employing a number of young local journalists and providing them with vocational training courses, all in an attempt to decentralize Egypt’s media. The portal would target more than 4 million internet users in southern Egypt with the objective of creating an interactive online community.

There are 1250 total beneficiaries of the program:

  • 50 awards to social and economic innovators and founders of existing iniatives
  • 200 awards to startup social entrepreneurs with a promising concept
  • 1000 internships to provide practical experience through work on the entrepreneurs’ projects for periods ranging between 3 and 6 months after specialized training courses from V-Worx 

Other applicants to the second round of the Pioneers of Egypt Award program include:

  • Tahrir Monologues (Sondos Shabayek): A theater project featuring the thoughts and ideas of young Egyptians about the epic 18 days of their revolution. Sondos provided acting classes so that regular people can better share their personal experiences with others, and continue performing in and out of Egypt.

  • Watan Amin (Tariq Ramadan): A project that provides ways of solving disputes other than violence, by establishing arbitration centers in collaboration with civil society organizations, to train individuals on mediation between parties in conflict.

  • Schaduf (Sharif Hosny): A startup specialized in roof gardening, hoping to provide income for the poor and to produce healthy food to facilitate healthier diets.

  • Qabila (Perihan Abou-Zeid): A media institution broadcasting contents that serve the community.

  • Yomken (Tamer Taha): An online platform offering crowdfunding solutions for handcrafts companies: the medium- and low-tech industries that constitute almost 60% of the Egyptian economy. We've written about Yomken previously.

  • Weladna (Fatima Azmy): A company producing eco-friendly children games that support the notions of tolerance and openness by including marginalized communities in the role-playing scenarios.

  • Megakheir (Amr Shady): A project that uses mobile phones to achieve social benefits. The project allows NGOs to raise funds through SMS and mobile applications. It is already considered the widest-reaching mobile fundraising platform and was developed by T.A. Telecom.

  • Axeer Studio (Anas Tolba): A start-up combining video and music to allow young Egyptians to express themselves. It publishes the work of emerging bands and works with development organizations to integrate their messages in pieces of art attractively presented to the public.

The program is investing in a new generation of leaders capable of playing a huge role in building the future of Egypt, says Hisham El-Rouby, Pioneers of Egypt Award CEO. He emphasizes that the program is contributing to the economic recovery of the country by increasing job opportunities especially among young people, as well as by facilitating the creation of socially conscious startups in the business world and the civil community.


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